The man who just stepped out of the photograph – Nicky Phillips

The man who just stepped out of the photograph

left his young sister lazing on rocks
on a sandy beach with his close friends,
Mr & Mrs Rolfe, sitting tidily nearby.
It’s a rare holiday for the 13 year old,
whose parents run a pub, have no time off.

Her slim and lanky frame is covered by
a swimsuit deemed figure-hugging in 1934,
first indication perhaps of the modelling
career to come in the 40s and 50s.
Relaxed optimism beams from the picture.

Five years later, on a sultry August day
three long weeks before the outbreak
of the Second World War, the man
who stepped out died of tuberculosis.
He was my uncle. I never met him.

Now, just a few inches high, he strolls
around the collection of family shots
on the sideboard, puzzles over groupings,
hesitates, rubs his chin as he studies
a photo of dark-haired teenage girls

playing cricket with grandparents
on a remote Scottish beach. He lingers
over the lady, stylish and upright seven
decades on, then, with a brief sigh
of reassurance, steps back into his own.


Nicky Phillips lives in Hertfordshire. Her poems have been published in magazines
and online. In 2017 one was nominated for Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her
pamphlet Jam in Aisle 3 was published by Dempsey & Windle in 2018.

2 thoughts on “The man who just stepped out of the photograph – Nicky Phillips

  1. Maybe I will be able to write as well as this when I grow up (I’m 75) – This was wonderful on every level – the conceit of a character coming out of the photograph – carried all the way through and never falters -the way the character comes emotionally alive. This is proper poetry. This is real


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s